Maritzburg look to upset Sundowns

Maritzburg look to upset Sundowns
Khama Billiat of Mamelodi Sundowns

by Graeme Jackson

Friday Apr 20, 2018. 11:30

Maritzburg United will look to upset Mamelodi Sundowns when the teams meet in the second Nedbank Cup semifinal, set for Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday, 22 April 2018, kick-off at 15h00.

Maritzburg have earned their place in the final four thanks to victories over Swallows FC (3-1 after extra time), Royal Eagles (2-1) and Bloemfontein Celtic (1-0) in the last 32, last 16 and quarterfinal respectively. Andrea Fileccia (two), Mxolisi Kunene, Deolin Mekoa, Siyanda Xulu and Lebohang Maboe have scored the goals in their campaign.

The Team of Choice has never won the Nedbank Cup, nor reached the final. In appearing in this year’s semifinal they have equalled their best performance in the competition, having last cracked the final four in 2014 when they were beaten by Orlando Pirates at the penultimate stage.

Sundowns advanced to the semifinals with wins over Cape Town All Stars (1-0), EC Bees (2-1) and Cape Town City (2-1) in the last 32, last 16 and quarterfinal respectively. Percy Tau, Hlompho Kekana (both two apiece) and Thapelo Morena have netted goals for the Tshwane side thus far in the competition.

The Brazilians are returning to the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup for the first time since they last won the competition, 2015. They have claimed the trophy four times overall, adding 1986, 1998 and 2008 to their triumph three years ago.

Maritzburg come into the match having claimed a 2-0 triumph away to Baroka FC in a league match last weekend – it was a seventh win from their last 10 matches across all competitions, underlining their strong form in 2018.

Sundowns, meanwhile, beat Golden Arrows 1-0 on Tuesday night to take a major step toward claiming the league title. The Tshwane side have won eight games on the bounce across all competitions and extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches overall.

Maritzburg and Sundowns have met in four previous cup matches: each side has claimed two wins against the other. Their most recent knockout game was in the quarterfinals of the MTN8 early this season, with United claiming a surprise 1-0 away win thanks to a goal from Evans Rusike (who is no longer with the club).

Overall the teams have clashed in 27 matches across all competitions since 2005/06. ‘Downs have claimed 17 wins compared to five for Maritzburg, while five games have been drawn. The Brazilians and the Team of Choice last met in a league clash in December 2017, with the Tshwane side winning 1-0 at home thanks to a goal from Tau. The teams will play their second round league game against each other on April 25.

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